Category Archives: Recaps

Mid-Year Book Freak Out Tag

Uh, I have no idea who created this tag and it’s been around for a while and nobody tagged me, as far as I know, but oh well, I AM DOING IT!

1. BEST BOOKS YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2017?

As y’all may already know, I’m a huge SFF fan, and this year Asian SFF YA has been absolutely spectacular! I’ve reviewed Want, A Crown of Wishes, The Epic Crush of Genie Lo already, but I still need to write and post reviews for Forest of a Thousand Lanterns and Warcross. I’ll be honest and say Want and Warcross are my favorite books by Cindy Pon and Marie Lu, respectively. They are so immersive and intense and exhilarating. All of these were five-star reads for me, and I’m so excited for other people to read and hopefully fall in love with them! 🙂

2. BEST SEQUEL OF 2017 SO FAR

It’s a tie! Rise of the Jumbies is the sequel to The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste, and Shadowhouse Fall is the sequel to Shadowshaper. I have yet to review any of these, but I really need to. I read these two sequels for Caribbean American Heritage Month, which was this past month. Rise of the Jumbies is set in Trinidad and also Ghana (with an epic cross-Atlantic journey in between), and Sierra, the heroine of Shadowhouse Fall, is Puerto Rican. Both series incorporate Caribbean lore, and they are filled with suspense, family bonds, friendship, and journeys of self-discovery. I adore these covers so much.

3. NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET, BUT YOU WANT TO

I’m not sure what counts as new, but among the books released in the past two months, there are quite a few I’m eager to read:

One Shadow on the Wall tells the story of a boy in Senegal who has lost his father and must support himself and his family. Crossing Ebenezer Creek is based on a historical event during the Civil War era of U.S. history and features a recently-freed Black girl trying to forge a new life and future for herself. I Believe in a Thing Called Love is a contemporary romantic comedy in which a studious Korean American girl attempts to use Korean drama tropes to win the heart of her crush.

4. MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF THE SECOND HALF OF 2017?

HAHA as if I could pick just one or even three. I need to section these off:

YA Sequels

  • The Speaker by Traci Chee (The Sea of Ink and Gold #2, September 12th)
  • Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee (Sidekick Squad #2, October 5th)
  • Chainbreaker by Tara Sim (Timekeeper Trilogy #2, November 7th)

If you haven’t read my rave reviews for the prequels to these books, you can go find out why I love them so much. The short version: The Reader (my review) is one of the most creative fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time, interweaving four different storylines and featuring a fascinating magic system in which the act of reading is a literal kind of magic. Not Your Sidekick (my review) is a fresh take on superheroes in a futuristic American West combined with a cute f/f romance. Timekeeper (my review) is set in an alternate England where clocks literally control the flow of time; in this world, our hero investigates a series of clock malfunctions with a sinister source while falling in love with an adorable and mysterious clock spirit.

YA SFF

I wasn’t joking when I said I love SFF! Beasts Made of Night is a Nigerian-inspired fantasy story that centers on a young man who is a magic user responsible for vanquishing the sin-beasts that form from people’s guilt as he navigates a deadly political conspiracy. Rebel Seoul takes place in near future Korea and stars a boy turned soldier who is recruited for a special project involving giant killing machines and forced to decide where his loyalty lies. The Library of Fates is based on the historical invasion of India by Alexander the Great and features a princess and servant on the run, in search of the Library of All Things, which may have the key to changing one’s fate.

YA Contemporary

Starfish is about a biracial Japanese American girl who deals with social anxiety while away from home and finds the courage to pursue the career of her dreams as an artist. You Bring the Distant Near tells the stories of three generations women in an Indian/Bengali immigrant family as they grow into their American identity. A Line in the Dark features a queer Chinese American girl who gets sucked into an elite social circle that is filled with secrets and danger.

MG Fantasy

More fantasy! Spirit Hunters stars a biracial Korean American girl who discovers her new house is haunted and has to save her brother from malevolent spirits. Akata Warrior is the sequel to Akata Witch (my review), a fantasy story starring four Nigerian American/Nigerian teens exploring their magic and working together to face down powerful foes. Whichwood is a companion to Furthermore and is a Persian-inspired story about a girl who washes the bodies of the dead and whose hair and hands are turning silver.

5. BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Okay so as far as 2017 book covers go, a few have disappointed me:

All of these were in my most anticipated cover reveals post but fell short of my expectations based on their synopses. Specifically, I was hoping that they would feature POC prominently, and they all failed to do that.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns was probably the biggest letdown out of all of them. The symbolism of the apple blossom isn’t apparent because most people have no idea what an apple blossom looks like and wouldn’t be able to identify it on sight, the font is really tacky, the repeating yin-yang symbols is also kitschy and the only real indicator that the book is based on East Asian cultures, and in general I just wish it had more detail and texture to it. My mental aesthetic for Xifeng and FOTL was Fan Bingbing starring in the Chinese historical drama, The Empress of China, and I was totally hoping for something similar to the images below.

What disappointed me about the Warcross cover was the color scheme: it wasn’t dark enough for the feel of the story, in my opinion. And, to state the painfully obvious, it’s literally just the title in a slightly upgraded version of 2007 MS Word Art. Verdict: should have hired Jason Chan, who did the cover art for Want and Heroine Complex and Heroine Worship.

As for Beasts Made of Night…I was hoping for a Black boy to be on the cover looking fierce and magical, but instead we got animal silhouettes. It’s not terrible, but I wanted something with more texture that really takes up space.

The conclusion: PenguinTeen needs to invest in better cover art. They are horribly underselling their best SFF titles by POC with mediocre covers.

A Line in the Dark gives you the dark and creepy vibes from the synopsis but is once again very vague, and I’m willing to bet the hand model they used for that photo wasn’t even Asian. Like why is it so hard to just put a queer Chinese American girl on the cover?

Okay, I’ll stop ranting about cover art now and talk about actual stories that disappointed me. There were only two, actually.

One was the middle grade book Stir It Up!, which I reviewed earlier this year. As I mentioned in my review, it didn’t have the level of detail and substance I was hoping for in a book centered on Indo-Caribbean cuisine that had so much potential. The other book was The Takedown by Corrie Wang. The premise sounded very interesting, and I was cautiously optimistic despite the fact that it was written by a white author (the main character is biracial Chinese American), but when I actually got to scoping it out at the bookstore, I found the main character really annoying, plus it was lowkey racist and sexist, among other things. Good thing I didn’t buy it.

6. BIGGEST SURPRISE

girl-on-the-verge

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

I was looking forward to reading this book because it features a Thai American protagonist, the 2nd one in contemporary YA that I know of and the first in years. There was some hype going for me. Then I actually read it, and I was completely blown away. My Goodreads review says it all:

“I didn’t intend for my review to be a haiku but the universe had the syllable count planted in my subconscious somehow so here you go:
holy fucking shit
what the hell did I just read
I need to lie down”

Also, my Twitter mini-thread:

7. FAVORITE NEW AUTHOR (DEBUT OR AUTHOR TO YOU)

F.C. Yee and Julie C. Dao tie! I was lucky enough to get ARCs of their books and loved their debuts so much and am dying for the sequels to FOTL and Genie Lo. *cries*

8. NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH

WANT_postcard01a

Well, I don’t really crush on YA characters much because of the age gap, but if he were my age, Jason Zhou from Want?

9. NEWEST FAVORITE CHARACTER

Genie Lo! The tall angry kickass Asian girl that I’ve always wanted in YA.

10. BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

its-not-like-its-a-secret

It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura

Okay, it’s fairly rare for a book to actually, literally make me cry, but this book actually did that. It was over a very emotional mother-daughter moment that really struck a chord with me, and I guess the biggest factors that contributed to that was a) the protagonist is [East] Asian American like me, and b) I lost my own mom last year so I’m still really sensitive to stuff relating to moms. If you want to read my thoughts about the Latinx rep (the love interest is Mexican American), I wrote a brief review about it on GR, but as I’m not Latinx, I don’t feel comfortable actually recommending this book to people since it was called out a few months back by a sensitivity reader for bad rep, and I don’t know to what extent that stuff was fixed/edited for the final version.

11. A BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

cilla-lee-jenkins-future-author-extraordinaire

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan

Okay, this was one of my favorite middle grade books of the year because it was really cute and fun but also creative about turning certain racist microaggressions against biracial Asian people on their head. You can read my full review here.

12. FAVORITE BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE SEEN THIS YEAR

…I don’t think I’ve seen any? Oops.

13. FAVORITE REVIEW YOU’VE WRITTEN THIS YEAR?

Probably my review for Want since it’s such a personally satisfying read because of the Taiwanese rep.

14. MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT OR RECEIVED THIS YEAR?

crystal-ribbon

The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim

It has such gorgeous cover art! It extends onto the back as well, and there’s a Chinese character on the cover under the jacket; it’s the word for the main character’s name, Jing. You can see it in my bookstagram post:

I also really loved the story, which I reviewed here.

15. WHAT BOOKS DO YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THE YEAR?

There are only a million and one, but here are some diverse releases from the first half of this year that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet:

Midnight Without a Moon is based on true historical events relating to the murder of Emmett Till in the mid-20th Century, told through the perspective of a young black girl. Stef Soto, Taco Queen tells the story of a girl who wants to escape the shadow of her family-run taco truck until that very livelihood is threatened, and she become it’s greatest champion. The Harlem Charade follows three kids of color in Harlem as they investigate one of them’s missing grandfather and stumble upon an insidious plot to gentrify their neighborhood. Piecing Me Together tackles the intersections of race, gender, and class for a Black teen girl who attends a mostly-white private school, where she’s identified as “at-risk.” Wintersong is an atmospheric retelling of the story of Labyrinth, in which a girl who loves to compose music becomes the bride of the Goblin King, her creative muse, in order to save her sister. Empress of a Thousand Skies is an epic space opera in which a princess and a former refugee have to join together to help reclaim the throne and save the galaxy. History Is All You Left Me tells the story of a teen struggling with the death of his ex and his own debilitating OCD, and his ex’s boyfriend is the only one who understands his pain. The Foretelling of Georgie Spider is the third and final book in The Tribe series by Indigenous author Ambelin Kwamullina; the series takes place in a dystopian future where people who manifest powers are Illegal and must survive in secret on the fringes of society or be detained by the state. I read the first book last year (my review) and loved it, so books 2 and 3 are waiting for me.


HEY, you made it to the end, yay you! I tag everyone who wants to do this tag. ^o^

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January and February Recaps, Blogger Life Updates, and More!

I can’t believe it’s already March. The year is more than 1/6 over. A lot has happened on my blog and in my offline life.

January Recap

In January, I started/attempted 5 different reading challenges, 3 year-long ones and 2 short-term ones.

The year-long ones included:

  • Diversity Bingo 2017 – This one is pinned at the top of my blog, so y’all probably know about it. The goal is to get a blackout on the bingo board, and since I know I’ll be reading more one book for each square/category, I started adding extra bingo boards to accommodate the repeats. So far every book I’ve read this year has counted for a square, something I’m very happy about and proud of. Here are my boards as of today:

diversity-bingo-2017-updated

diversity-bingo-2017-board-2

  • Read Diverse 2017 hosted by Naz – I forgot to announce this one, but I’ve been doing it since the beginning of the year. This challenge doesn’t have specific prompts like the above, but rather categories of books and posts that count toward the challenge, and you link up reviews, discussion posts, listicles, etc. to earn points. Once you pass certain point milestones, you get a pretty badge. The person with the highest score at the end of each three-month period and at the end of the year gets a special prize. My badges are on display in the footer of my blog in a slideshow, but here they are side-by-side. 🙂
  • Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge – Last year I read a total of 180 books, with 120 being first-time reads and the other 60 being rereads. This year I set a goal of 200 books. Because of life stuff and a reading slump, I’m currently on book #18 and 17 book behind, r.i.p. However, since The Hate U Give pulled me out of my slump, I may be able to catch up within the next month or two.

The short-term reading challenges were:

  • Dumbledore’s Army Readathon – There were 7 prompts based on Harry Potter spells. I finished 4 out of the 7 books and reviewed 3 of them. The review of the 4th is still pending. The remaining 3 books are still on my TBR. You can find the reviews linked in the reading challenge announcement post above.
  • DiverseAThon – This was a week-long challenge. I picked out 7 books, half of them middle grade, and then only ended up reading 4 out of the 7 during the actual reading challenge period and finished 1 out of the remaining 3 in February. I’ve reviewed 2 out of the books I’ve read (linked in the reading challenge post), the reviews for the other 3 are pending. (Yes, I’m behind on reviewing, sigh.)

In January, I also hosted my first author interview with debut indie author Ishara Deen.

February Recap

My February TBR was themed around Black History Month and includes around 50 titles by Black authors. Because I was still catching up on January reads and went through a book slump, I only read 2 books by Black authors during the month of February. However, I have a bunch of books by Black authors on my shelves waiting to be read still, and uplifting Black voices is a year-round, ongoing commitment, so even though Black History Month is behind us, I’m still reading Black authors throughout the rest of the year, of course. 🙂

Other significant February posts include:

Blogger Life Updates and Some Self-Promo

I got a temp job in late January that was supposed to last a few days, but it got extended multiple times because my employer kept finding new tasks for me to do. I just finished my most recent assignment, so things are quiet and I don’t know if I’ll get anything else from them. I interviewed for a full-time job, but it’s up in the air whether I’ll get the job and if I do, it probably won’t be for a long time because of internal bureaucracy stuff in the company (my older sister works for them). So in the meantime, I’m basically unemployed and financially dependent on my dad, who also just got laid off recently. Although my family’s finances are stable right now, for me personally as an individual, I’m kind of floating out at sea and trying to do more to become financially independent and self-sustaining. If you like my content and have the means, there are a variety of ways you can support my work as a blogger and writer:

Totally optional and I’m definitely still blogging regardless, but since I put so much labor into this blog, it would be nice to get some money out of it. 🙂

I am now offering sensitivity services, with the details on this page. If you could share my link or refer me to anyone looking for a sensitivity reader with my particular area(s) of expertise, that would be awesome!

Some non-monetary ways of supporting me and my blog:

  • Sharing my reviews and posts.
  • Recommending my blog to other people.
  • Commenting on my posts with thoughts and reactions. I love hearing feedback from blog followers. 🙂
  • Connecting me with diverse indie/self-pubbed authors who need a boost for their upcoming book and/or are looking for someone to do an ARC review.

Social Media

In case you missed my pic spam on Twitter, I recently started Bookstagramming. You can find me here.

If you want to follow what I’m reading as I read it, with live updates and flailing and all, you can add me on Goodreads. (Just note that I’m a very generous person with ratings, so if you want a clearer picture of what a book is like you are definitely better off reading my reviews here than looking at my ratings on Goodreads, which are very one-dimensional ways of evaluating a book.)

Sneak Peeks at What’s Ahead

  • Aside from the stuff I’m already doing, I have more new projects planned.As I mentioned on Twitter a while ago, I have some educational posts about social justice in the works. I’ll post an announcement with details once I figure out how I want to schedule and approach this series.
  • I’m planning to host my own reading challenge in May for Asian American Heritage Month to showcase the diversity and intersectional experiences within Asian lit. For the purpose of this challenge…
    • I’m looking for co-hosts, and the only qualifications are that you be 1) Asian (includes all of Asia, not just East Asia, of course, and you can be living in Asia or part of diaspora, either one is fine) and 2) active in the book community. Your role as a co-host will involve brainstorming the categories for the challenge and generating a list of books that correspond to those categories, promoting the challenge on your blog/book promo platforms (including social media such as Twitter and Instagram), and helping host one or more Twitter hashtag events/discussions during the month of May.
    • I’m also looking for a graphics designer to do the bingo board associated with the challenge. This is open to anyone. Said designer will be compensated for their labor with their choice of a 2017 English-language release that is by an Asian author. It can be from any genre (e.g. lit fic, fantasy, contemporary) and target age (MG, YA, NA, adult, etc.) you want. It doesn’t have to be #ownvoices, so for example, Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao counts, and so does Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones.
    • If you are interested in co-hosting or doing the graphics for this challenge, you can drop me a message via my Contact form.
    • Even if you can’t help in the development stages of this reading challenge, it would be great if you could participate and spread the word about it when the time comes. There are prizes involved! 😉

My 2016 in Review and 2017 Bookish Resolutions

So, a lot happened in 2016.

332807In May, I decided to start this blog to review the Asian lit I read and posted my very first blog post on the first book featuring a Taiwanese American character that I’d ever read, Nothing but the Truth (and a few white lies) by Justina Chen.

Then, in November, I made the first real step toward posting regulardiversity december bingo updated.pngly and averaged about one review per day since late November, totaling 35 reviewing as of yesterday.

Starting on December 1st, I participated in my first reading challenge, #DiversityDecBingo. The goal was to get one row of 5 books, but I was aiming for a complete blackout. Unfortunately, I didn’t quite reach that goal, with 3 books unfinished (I’d started and gotten a third of the way through of 2 of them). Even so, I’m proud of how far I got.

I did my first book tag, the Diverse Books Tag.

I hunder-a-painted-sky-paperbackosted my first giveaway, for Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky. It was part of an author spotlight, and you can read the spotlight post here.

I broke 20 followers on my blog and 150 Twitter followers after about a month of activity.

I made commitments to two different reading challenges for 2017, the #DAReadathon and #DiversityBingo2017, researching over 150 books to put together a suggestions list for the latter.

Now, for the 2017 resolutions!

  1. Diversify my reading even more! I started out focusing on Asian lit and that’s still the primary focus of my blog, but there are so many other amazing diverse books out there. Some specifics:
    • I’m prioritizing #ownvoices books. I’ve already been doing that for the most part, so I’m renewing and strengthening my commitment.
    • I want to read more books with/by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous characters/authors.
      • By indigenous, I don’t just mean Native American, I mean indigenous peoples all over the world. In particular, I’m interested in reading books by/about Taiwan’s indigenous people and Pacific Islanders (the two are actually related, ethnically and linguistically).
    • I want to read more Asian lit by Southeast Asian authors, as there are a lot of them who publish English-language lit in their regional market but don’t get much attention in the U.S. Thankfully, the Internet exists, and I’ve been following more SEA authors on Twitter so I can be more in the loop about publishing news in SEA.
    • I want to read more books with/by disabled characters/authors. I’m disabled myself (I have two-ish mental illnesses), and I want to read about the many disabilities that are out there that differ from my own.
    • I want to read more LGBTQ+ books. Because queer Asian lit is hard to come by, especially #ownvoices, and queer lit is very white as a whole, I kind of neglected queer lit for a while. Thankfully more books are coming out that feature queer Asian characters, so it’s not as much of an either/or situation of reading Asian lit vs. queer lit.
    • I want to read more books with/by Jewish characters/authors. I’ve read a decent number of books with Muslim rep because the majority of Muslims are Asian, but not so much Jewish rep. I’ve actually found a number of books featuring Asian Jewish characters, and I’m interested in that intersectionality since people tend to assume all Jewish people are European, which is false.
    • I want read more poetry and comics/graphic novels by marginalized creators. I read mostly prose right now, but as a former poet and a visual artist, I can definitely appreciate other creative media besides prose.
  2. I want to host my own diverse reading challenge/bingo in celebration of Asian American Heritage Month in May. More details to come later. If you are an Asian reader/blogger/booktuber who wants to help brainstorm and co-host this challenge, you can DM me on Twitter @theshenners, drop a comment on this post, or send me a message through my blog’s Contact form. I’m also looking for a graphic designer to help design the bingo board, and I will compensate the person with their choice of a 2017 book release with an Asian MC  by an Asian author in their preferred format. If you know anyone who might be interested, send them my way!
    • Note: The US government refers to it as Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. However, the lumping in of Asian Americans with Pacific Islanders (aka Pasifika/Pacifica people) is problematic because it erases the fact that Asian people are complicit in settler colonialism against Pasifika people. For this reason, I keeping this reading challenge to Asian lit. If anyone who is Pasifika wants to host a separate/parallel reading challenge for Pasifika lit, that would be awesome and I will totally boost/support it and participate.
  3. I want to reduce and clear out my backlist of TBR books from 2015 and 2016. Hopefully I can accomplish that through some of my reading challenges by matching books with a reading challenge prompt. 🙂
  4. I want to participate in mini reading challenges corresponding to the various history/heritage and awareness months/weeks such as Black History Month, Transgender Awareness Week, etc.
  5. I have two other year-long reading challenges that I’m eyeing with interest. Hopefully I can juggle all of these reading challenges.
  6. I want to post regular Asian author spotlights. I’ll probably pair them with giveaways like I did with my Stacey Lee author spotlight.
  7. I want to review books right after finishing them. I started my diverse book reading quest in 2015 but didn’t think to review the books I read until last year, so I have an enormous backlog of books I’ve read but haven’t reviewed. At this point I’ll probably have to reread some of them so I can write a more thorough review.
  8. With all of the above points in mind, I also want to make sure that I’m not stressing myself out too much trying to reach various goals. I read because I love to immerse myself in stories, and turning it into an assignment-like deal can be draining. So even if I don’t reach all of my goals, I hope to enjoy myself as much as possible. 🙂

Thanks to everyone who welcomed me into the book community in 2016. Hope to share my bookish adventures with y’all in 2017!